Friday, March 18, 2016

Campaign to defend and promote coal gains steam; created by former miner in Southern Illinois

Former Southern Illinois coal miner Bob Sandidge last month began a social-media campaign to promote the positive aspects of coal on local economies, while blaming the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan for the downfall of the industry. Sandidge, an industry consultant who mined coal for 35 years, created the Facebook page, Coal Miner's Movement 2016, which now has more than 26,000 likes. (McLean County News photo by Austin Ramsey: Sandidge speaking in Madisonville, Ky.)

Sandidge, who says the industry is at its lowest point in his lifetime, puts much of the blame on federal policies changing emissions standards, Brad Palmer reports for WSIU, the PBS station in Carbondale, Ill. Sandidge told him, "You're told different things. For every mining job, there's three affected. For every mining job, there's eight affected. . . . We're getting retailers; we're getting grocery store people from mom and pop stores that are having to close their doors. The restrictions and regulations that they have imposed on coal generation from power plants totally choked the industry off."

Coal Miner's Movement, which has been granted non-profit status, is having town-hall meetings, Austin Ramsey reports for the McLean County News in Calhoun, Ky. Sandidge told supporters at a meeting in nearby Madisonville, "The minute we formed this we knew we had a struck a nerve. We knew we had created something big. We borrowed from the [presidential] election. We're going to 'make coal great again.'"

Coal Miner's Movement "isn't endorsing any politicians or speaking on behalf of any specific coal companies," Ramsey writes. "It's not a charity, and it doesn't solicit union support, Sandidge said. Several Republican candidates seeking nomination for the First Congressional District were present, and Sandidge encouraged the crowd to take note of that." He said "the movement is seeking to end what Sandidge called President Barack Obama's war on coal; rebalance the energy market to give the coal industry a fighting chance; develop clean-coal research initiatives; and embark on an educational rebranding effort that clears up coal's dirty image."

Chris Williams, one of the hundreds of Western Kentucky residents who have lost coal jobs in the last few months, was at the meeting. He told Ramsey, "It's just a hard time right now. It's tough on all these miners, and it's tough on vendors and contractors. It's hard on everybody, and it affects communities." He said he believes that with enough support the Coal Miner's Movement can make a real difference, telling Ramsey, "People have got voices down in those mines. If they can make those voices heard, we can get something done."

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